Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in connection with a series of alleged incidents involving his former girlfriend in July 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. The league announced the suspension on Friday and sent Elliott a letter detailing the reasons for his punishment.
Elliott has three days to appeal the suspension and the league must grant a hearing within 10 days of the appeal. If Elliott doesn’t get the suspension overturned, he would be suspended from Sept. 2 and wouldn’t be eligible for reinstatement until Oct. 23. The Cowboys open the season on Sept. 10 against the Giants. Elliott is allowed to remain with the team while his appeal is pending.
Todd Jones, the NFL’s special counsel for conduct, said the league had concluded that “there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence” against Tiffany Thompson “on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
Jones said the league examined photos of injuries Thompson allegedly sustained during the altercations. Jones also said the league consulted four independent advisors, including Hall of Fame safety Ken Houston and former New Jersey attorney general Peter Harvey, before deciding to suspend Elliott.
“The findings [from the league’s investigation] are based on a combination of photographic, medical, testimonial and other evidence that is sufficiently credible in [commissioner Roger Goodell’s] judgment to establish the fact,” Jones wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday. “The photographic and medical forensic evidence corroborates many critical elements of the allegations regarding the causes of her injuries.”
In a statement released Friday by Elliott’s representatives after the suspension, his appeal will challenge discrepancies raised during the NFL’s investigation and decision-making process.
“Our offices have been engaged in this matter since last July and have worked hand in hand with the Columbus Prosecutor’s office as well as the NFL with their respective investigations,” the statement from attorneys Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum read. “Accordingly, we are fully aware of the full body of evidence that exists in connection with this matter. The NFL’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence.
“For example, both the Columbus Prosecutor’s office as well as the NFL investigators expressly concluded and conveyed to our office [and others] that the accuser was lying about an alleged July 22, 2016 incident whereby she accused Mr. Elliott of pulling her out of her car and assaulting her. An allegation that was ultimately undermined by her own friend’s affidavit which stated that no such assault occurred . . . During the upcoming weeks and through the appeal a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light.”
Law enforcement authorities in Columbus decided not to press charges against Elliott in connection with the alleged incidents. However, the NFL’s personal conduct policy procedures allow the league to sanction players even if there is no arrest or conviction in connection with an alleged incident. There is a “baseline suspension without pay of six games” regardless of whether “the conduct does not result in a criminal conviction.”
“In cases where a player is not charged with a crime, or is charged but not convicted, he may still be found to have violated the policy if the credible evidence establishes that he engaged in conduct prohibited by this Personal Conduct Policy.”
Elliott also was cited for an incident that occurred last March 11, when Elliott pulled down the shirt of a woman at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas. The incident was not a determining factor in the suspension, according to the letter, but the league found that Elliott’s behavior was “inappropriate and disturbing, and reflected a lack of respect for women. When viewed together with the July incidents, it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior for which effective intervention is necessary for your personal and professional welfare.”
Elliott was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2016, and rushed for a league-high 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. He earned first-team All Pro honors as a rookie.